A SEAL found washed-up in Roker had to be flown 200 miles in urgent need of specialist care.
Samson the seal was found in the docks at Roker, badly injured, covered in cuts and unable to move.
The British Divers’ Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) was called in to help and medics from the charity managed to reach the seal and take her to Ayres Vets, North Shields, where she was stabilised.
But it became clear specialist treatment would be necessary in order to save Samson’s life, treatment which was only available 200 miles away in Norfolk - a journey she would be unlikely to survive by road.
So Samson was taken to Newcastle Airport and flown to the RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre by a light aircraft.
Richard Ilderton, a co-ordinator for BDMLR, said: “We were originally called by the RSPCA who had received a report from a member of the public.
“The seal was very badly injured. She had cuts to her nose, an injury and infection in one of her eyes, injuries to her back and a very nasty, deep cut to her rear flipper, which was infected.
“It was quite tricky to get to her but we managed eventually and realised the extent she was hurt. We have no idea how she got in the docks, but she may have swam in through an inlet and been unable to get out.
“She was a very ill seal. We took her to Ayres Vets and she was stabilised but we needed to get her to specialist care and it was unlikely she would have made it by road.
“It was a bit of a race against time at one point. The initial box we got to transport her from the vets to the airport was too small, so we had to find another one.
“Then it was a rush to get her down there as quickly as possible. We really appreciated the help we got off everyone, especially Samson Aviation, who we named her after, and Ayres Vets who treated her for free. She is now expected to make a full, although slow recovery.”
Samson Aviation helped get the seal on to the plane, and waived any fees for freight handling that may have incurred. The light plane itself was owned and piloted by Graham Mountford, who flew up from the Midlands, and then took Samson to Norfolk before flying back home.
Photographer Marcus Gilmour saw the incident at the airport, and recalled: “I was doing some photography at the airport when a light aircraft pulled in. I thought it was a bit unusual so I went over and asked if I could take some photos. It was then I got told, ‘Yeah, but you haven’t met the seal!’
“He was very cute with big puppy-dog eyes - not your normal airport passenger.”
Samson is continuing her recovery at the centre in Norfolk, and is expected to be released back into the wild after a few months in care.